On a cold and frosty Monday 28th November we were pleased to welcome a delegation of 13 visitors to the University from Thailand. These were senior figures from Thai universities and funding bodies who have come to the UK to learn about how we are implementing support and enabling researchers to engage with their research beyond the academy. Internationally, the UK are seen to be leaders in this field and Bath is one of the UK's key institutions with experience of successfully influencing culture within a university.
They specifically came to see us to learn from our experiences over the last four years here in Bath - how and why we had set up the Public Engagement Unit, our ethos and approach and lessons learned around influencing a culture of engaged research. They were really interested in the changes we had made to improve reward and recognition for engaged research, the diversity of approaches that we take to enable professional development across the university and the programme of opportunities that exist for researchers to test out and develop their practice. The concept of a science festival, how it works and how it allows engagement with research was a fascinating discussion - as yet, such festivals are not commonplace in Thailand. Our Community Matters projects were of particular interest, as some of the universities are seeking to create interactions based solely upon the identified needs and questions from the community around the campus, which can be a challenging mode of engagement. Professor Bernie Morley also joined us to welcome our visitors to Bath and thank them for their interest in our work.
In Thailand, public engagement with research is a relatively new agenda. In the last two years they have formed a network of universities and funders who are seeking change within their sector, Engagement Thailand (engagementthailand.org). Their visit to the UK was arranged by the Knowledge Network Institute of Thailand for them to learn from our experiences, and take knowledge and guidance back to Thailand based on UK best practice. We have been informally invited to visit them next year at their annual meeting of Engagement Thailand, to share more widely and in more depth, what we have learned in Bath. We'll let you know if we make it to Bangkok!
It was a fascinating morning of discussions, and wonderful that they were so interested in what we had achieved in Bath and in our continuing work. It was quite an undertaking to organise, which we hadn't quite realised when we naively said "yes, of course, we'd love you to visit us in Bath", but the International Relations Office were really supportive and guided us through suitable arrangements for such a high level delegation and HR were rapidly responsive writing numerous letters for visa applications as the delegation grew and grew - thank you so much!
In case you are interested, our visitors were representatives from Hatyai University, Rajamangala University of Technology Isan, Mahidol University, Prince of Songkla University, Chulalongkorn University, Kasetsart University, The Thailand Research Fund and Knowledge Network Institute of Thailand).